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Seattle officers face 'autonomous zone' crowd, say 911 response times have tripled

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best talks with activists near a plywood-covered and closed Seattle police precinct on Tuesday. (AP)

Video shows protesters argued among themselves in Seattle Thursday evening as a few police officers re-entered the so-called “cop free zone” on the way to the boarded-up, abandoned East Precinct building -- and one officer told them their protest was tripling the time it takes for first responders to handle calls in the area.


“Tensions are high in the CHAZ after some officers came in to enter the East Precinct,” Town Hall journalist Julio Rosas tweeted, along with a two-minute video of the encounter. “Some in the crowd wanted to make sure nothing happened to the officers. Others wanted to prevent the officers from entering the zone.”

“CHAZ” stands for the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone,” the demonstrators’ unofficial name for the area surrounding the building, which they barricaded and occupied Monday night after police withdrew.

At one point, a female officer can be overheard telling a protester that “our 911 response time has tripled from what it was before we had officers not working out of this precinct.”

“That’s not acceptable,” she tells him, adding that it was taking 15 minutes or longer for police to respond to emergencies in the area.

Off-camera shouting drowns out their conversation, and then the camera turns toward protesters trading profanities, apparently angry that someone had “let” the police into the area.
Earlier in the video, two men are seen exchanging words after one blocked other protesters from moving near the police.

“I’m out here every single day to make sure everybody’s OK,” says the man who blocked the other protesters.

Then a third man interrupts, asking “how many cops are we gonna let back in there?”

“It’s not a matter of how many cops are in there,” the other man answers. “We’re not worried about police. We have these streets already.”

Police cleared out of the area Monday night after days of protests -- some of which led to rioting and violence. A man allegedly drove into a crowd of protesters Sunday night and shot someone just a block away from the building. On Saturday, demonstrators allegedly hurled bottles, rocks and “explosives” at police.
Arson attacks on five unmarked police vehicles occurred just a few blocks away on May 30. The Justice Department announced the arrest of a 25-year-old Tacoma woman in connection with that incident Thursday.

Also on Thursday, as experts urged the city to take back the building, Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said it was not her decision to leave in the first place.

She said the city gave in to “severe public pressure” when the decision came down.

“To have a change of course, nearly two weeks in, it seems like an insult to you and our community,” Best said in a video addressed to her officers.

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